Raul Castro changes key figures in Cuban government

March 3rd, 2009 - 7:59 am ICT by IANS  

Havana, March 3 (DPA) Cuban President Raul Castro Monday undertook a major cabinet reshuffle removing key figures like Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage, secretary of the Cuban Council of Ministers.
In a statement that was read out on Cuban state television, Castro - who formally took over power from his brother, historic Cuban leader Fidel Castro, a little over a year ago - announced the mergers of several ministries and a score of changes in several portfolios.

Perez Roque and Lage had for years been key figures in the Cuban government.

The former foreign minister, in particular, was considered very close to Fidel Castro and was in fact once widely regarded as his likely successor. Perez Roque, 43, was set to be replaced as foreign minister by his deputy, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, after 10 years in the position.

Lage was to be replaced in a position that is equivalent to that of a prime minister by a military figure, General Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra. The former secretary of the Council of Ministers is also regarded as a man close to Fidel Castro, and was considered an advocate of gradually opening up the economy of the communist Caribbean island.

Despite the changes, Lage was set to remain vice president of the Cuban Council of State, the island’s executive.

According to an official statement, these changes were set to be followed by others, based on the “need to keep studying the current structure of government to gradually reduce its size and increase its efficacy.”

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